PIKEVILLE – Five former standouts representing five sports were given the ultimate recognition on Saturday when they were immortalized as members of the athletics Hall of Fame at the University of Pikeville.
Basketball player Nathan Kirk, cross country runner Phillip Mosley, tennis player and coach Rodrigo Puebla, Chad Roberts of baseball and football player Michael Sheppard compose the Class of 2013.
In addition, West Virginia native Buck Harless was inducted in the honorary wing of the Hall of Fame for his contributions to the program and the institution.
The ceremony was held Saturday morning at 11 a.m. in Booth Auditorium.
After a stellar career at Matewan, W.Va., High School where he was all-state in track and basketball while also playing football and baseball, Nathan Kirk signed a scholarship agreement to play basketball at Pikeville. After playing one season for Coach Dale McNeeley, he finished his career for longtime Coach Paul Butcher, who added him to his starting rotation on the baseball team.
As a senior Kirk averaged nearly 15 points per game and had a batting average of .320 while playing three positions on the baseball field. On the court, Butcher labeled Kirk the best defensive player he ever coached, a compliment Kirk says meant more to him than making an All-American team. To prove Butcher’s point, as a sophomore Kirk held future Olympic-team captain Kenny Davis to half his scoring average when the Bears played Georgetown.
Kirk received a degree in business with a minor in PE, graduating with a 3.2 grade-point average. After 37 years with American Electric Power in Pikeville, he retired in 2010, allowing him more time with his wife, son and four grandchildren.
After helping Cordia High School to a state championship, Phillip Mosley was one of the first student-athletes to sign a cross country scholarship at Pikeville and made the most of it.
Mosley and his brother Rhett are what Coach John Biery has called “the cornerstone of the program.” Mosley recalls often running in meets where the duo finished first and second. He says, despite his success, he was “pleasantly surprised” to have been recruited to run in college, and would not have come to Pikeville if not for Rhett.
A team captain in his time as a Bear, Mosley was a two-time academic all-conference selection. At the time of his induction, Mosley is a children’s therapist living back in Perry County with his wife and two children.
A native of Santiago, Chile, Rodrigo Puebla came to Pikeville after spending two seasons at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala., and it is no accident that his time as a Bear coincided with the most successful run in tennis in school history.
In 2000, Puebla was first-team All-KIAC in both singles and doubles. The following season the Bears took the Mid-South Conference by storm, winning the championship while Puebla was honorable mention in singles and all-conference in doubles. He led the program to consecutive appearances in the NAIA national tournament.
After receiving his degree business administration emphasizing management, Puebla became the coach of the women’s tennis program. Under his guidance, the team was Mid-South Conference champions in 2003 as he was named coach of the year in both the league and the region. He had the league’s player of the year, three first-team all-conference singles players and two first-team doubles pairings as the team reached the NAIA national quarterfinals.
After having one of the best careers in the storied history of Pikeville High School baseball where he finished with a career record of 12-0 while being named first-team all-state, Chad Roberts continued that success at Pikeville College. Chad led the team in wins, strikeouts and earned-run average three times as a Bear.
In 2003 he was selected first-team All-Mid-South Conference after winning seven games and finishing with an ERA of 3.14. But the outing for which he is most remembered was his final one in a Bear uniform. In a 2005 MSC tournament game which went an NAIA record 22 innings, Roberts pitched the first 15 frames in which he threw an amazing 194 pitches and faced a staggering 52 batters.
In his career, Roberts was 18-9 with a 3.38 ERA. In 211.2 innings, he struck out 169 while walking only 71, allowing 151 hits and 102 earned runs.
A member of the celebrated Elite Nine, Michael Sheppard’s career at Pikeville stacks up strongly compared to any since he helped begin the football program with the 2000 club team. Thanks to the efforts of Shep and his teammates, particularly the nine with whom he both started the program and then graduated in 2004, the program was off the ground with a flying start.
Sheppard had 189 career tackles, including 121 solos, both of which were second most for the school at the time of his graduation. At the time of his induction, his 20.5 sacks stood as the school record and his six forced fumbles had been topped only one time.
As a senior, Sheppard had 87 tackles, 56 of them solos, which were both second on the school’s list. His 12 sacks as a junior is still the school record, while the 7.5 he recorded as a senior was fourth. As a junior, he forced four fumbles, which is second at Pikeville. As a senior against Union, Sheppard had 15 tackles in a game, and during his junior season against Bethel, he had six tackles for loss and his five sacks and two forced fumbles that day remain the most in school history.
Buck Harless has been a friend of the university for decades, and was a key figure in the initiation of the football program in 2000.
“Mr. Harless is one of the most philanthropic individuals not only in the mountains of Appalachia but also in the entire country,” said James Hurley, vice-president of the institution. “His kindness and generosity to the university has, in many ways, helped paved the way for a generation of students, particularly from his beloved home of West Virginia. His friendship to our school has been extraordinary.”